A group of payments companies experienced in international business have formed a network to support e-commerce merchants as they plan their global expansion.

The Global Retail Insights Network plans to be a one-stop shop for online merchants, providing expertise from six payments industry companies, network organizers announced this week.

Carl Miller, global market director of retail for Amsterdam-based payment processor Global Collect, developed the concept after years of working with retailers that needed international processing.

"We realized we were bringing in other partners to service the clients because they had other issues to solve, and wanted ideas on how to innovate and differentiate themselves," Miller says.

The result was what the companies refer to as GRIN, a network designed to address all aspects of an international expansion.

In addition to Global Collect, GRIN includes Boise, Idaho-based fraud prevention firm Kount; Stamford, Conn.-based international parcel delivery provider Pitney Bowes Inc.; San Francisco-based strategic business consultant Edgar, Dunn & Co.; New York-based currency conversion provider E4X and New York-based language translation services provider Translations.com.

GRIN operates with an internal governing committee, but essentially "walks before we run" by attempting to develop a clear understanding of what the merchant wants to accomplish, Miller says.

"The majority of the work often is easily integrated," Miller says. "For example, we can wrap Kount's fraud protection into any system."

Even though each prospective retailer client may not need the services of all six companies, GRIN offers "an immediate economy of scale and decades of international business experience" to the planning table, Miller says.

Don Bush, vice president of marketing for Kount, says GRIN has allowed his company to take "more of a consultative approach" with merchants. "A merchant looking to go international may need one key thing, but there are many things to be taken care of that he may not be aware of," Bush says.

The real value for a merchant working with GRIN will be the shorter planning and integration time the network can offer, Bush says. "Turning an eight-month project into a six-month project can save a lot of time and money," Bush adds. "It's just a faster, easier and better approach."

Most retailers don't have a deep knowledge of payments and fraud, and even larger retailers may benefit from more expertise, Bush says. "We bring in a full team of experts," he adds.

E-commerce has tremendous potential internationally and any type of specialist services will be important for merchants seeking new markets, says Gareth Lodge, a London-based industry analyst with Celent.

GRIN may need to overcome the fact that its companies, though capable experts in their fields, are not "household names," Lodge says.

GRIN's marketing will have to make it clear to merchants how the network differs from other specialists offering multiple services, Lodge adds.

"I would also wonder about the target market," Lodge says. "I suspect that companies in the global top 100 list would, well, be global and have addressed many of the issues already," Lodge says.
Only about half of the companies starting to conduct international business "realize how overwhelming it can be," Miller says.

Some merchants are looking for "immediate pop" from their project and are naïve about what they really need, Miller says.

"An example might be a retailer who wants to go into Brazil, China and Russia, but does not know those markets well enough to rush in," Miller says. "In many cases, they might be far better off concentrating on making their own market areas stronger for a few months and then move into other areas."

Bush says the next task at hand for GRIN is to get the word out about its services through monthly webinars and a referral network from current clients.

"We have a lot of expertise in a lot of areas," Bush says.

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